Essential Guide to the Best Monuments in Rome

I started to make a list of all the monuments in Rome and realized I'd have to cut it off at some point!

colosseum up close at duskThe Colosseum is probably one of the first landmarks people think about when they think about Rome, but there are lots more to discover!

Whether you're visiting Rome for the first time or the tenth, here for a 1-day visit or a week, you'll want to visit as many of these famous landmarks in Rome as you can.

Monuments and Famous Landmarks in Rome

romen forum from campidoglioThis view of the Roman Forum from Capitoline Hill shows many Ancient Roman monuments, including the Colosseum in the background.

Rome's historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site all by itself.

It's no wonder that the city is chock-a-block with historical Rome monuments.

You will likely see them whether you plan to or not, as they are often packed together in Rome's historic center, around Capitoline Hill.

Since so many are dotted throughout the city, you can often see them for free as you walk around, certainly from the outside.


A monument is defined as being a building or structure.

On this page, I am listing these types of structures, as opposed to piazzas, streets, large complexes, or neighborhoods.

In Rome, we can divide the landmarks into two lists, ancient monuments and more modern ones.

On this page, you'll find:

Most visited Ancient Rome landmarks

The most important and must-see famous landmarks from Ancient Rome are:

The Colosseum

Rome's most iconic monument, the Colosseum was built in the 1st century CE for gladiator battles and other public entertainment, now found close to the ruins of the Imperial Forums, Palatine Hill and Roman Forum.

view of the colosseum from the sideThe Colosseum is definitely iconic, even if you only view it from the outside.

You can easily see the Colosseum for free from the outside.

To learn about how to visit this famous landmark, visit my dedicated Colosseum hub page here.

Two other arenas, or rather stadiums from antiquity are the Circus Maximus and Domitian's Stadium.

circus maximus in summerToday the Circus Maximus is a big grassy field, but it was once the largest stadium ever built.

Since neither of these still stands today as they once did, I am not officially including them in this list of historical monuments, although both sites merit a visit.

The Circus Maximus today is mostly a huge park but there are some things you can see and do there.

Domitian's stadium is now Piazza Navona, which you'll likely be visiting during your Rome trip as one of the Eternal City's most famous squares.

And if you want, you can visit part of Domitian's stadium by heading underground, at the north end of Piazza Navona.

Caveat - I am also not including the Roman Forum or Palatine Hill on this list, because as I mentioned above, a monument is defined as being a building or structure.

For a list of must-see sites in Rome, which do include the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill, visit my dedicated page here.

The Pantheon

The ancient structure we now call the Pantheon is an awe-inspiring feat of engineering, originally built during the time of Emperor Augustus and then rebuilt in the 2nd century CE by Emperor Hadrian.

pantheon during the dayThe Pantheon is one of my absolute favorite places in Rome, well worth including in your trip itinerary.

Because it was turned into a Christian church in the 7th century, the Pantheon is one of the best-preserved buildings from Ancient Rome to survive to this day, and one of the top Rome landmarks.

Found in Piazza della Rotonda, the Pantheon is one of the most visited monuments in Rome for a reason!

To learn more about the Pantheon and how to visit it, visit my dedicated page here.

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Castel Sant'Angelo

It might not be evident at first glance, but this giant edifice began as a monument during the Roman Empire.

It was originally the mausoleum of Roman Emperor Hadrian, constructed around 130 CE on the banks of the River Tiber.

Castel Sant'Angelo from the Angel bridgeThe imposing structure of the Castel Sant'Angelo has loomed over Rome for centuries

In the Middle Ages it became a fortress, then later a papal party palace, a prison, and the site of gruesome executions.

It's now a museum and worth visiting for its layers of architecture and stunning Renaissance art, not to mention the panoramic view!

Augustus' Mausoleum

This mausoleum was built for Rome's first emperor, Octavian Augustus.

Like Hadrian's Mausoleum (which came 100 years after this one), its use has changed quite a bit over its history.

Eventually the mausoleum was abandoned and lay forlorn and forgotten, but in recent years it has been restored and now we can visit it.

Mausoleum of Augustus inner cilenderIn the last couple of years restoration work has allowed access to the Mausoleum again

For more about how to visit this monument, visit my page here.

Rome monuments that may be less well-known

Trajan's Column

Built in 113 CE to commemorate Roman Emperor Trajan, this 98-foot column is decorated with incredible carvings detailing the history of the emperor's military campaign and victory over Dacia (today Romania).

trajans column and vittoriano at blue hourThe blue hour is one of the most beautiful times of day to enjoy Trajan's column and the Vittoriano monument.

Just minutes from Piazza Venezia, the column stands in Trajan Forum along the via dei Fori Imperiali (across the road from the Roman Forum) and you can get fairly close to it from the external viewpoints, or by visiting the forum itself.

You can also see more of its base if you visit Palazzo Valentini, an underground Roman Domus adjacent to the forum.

Trajan's columnTrajan's Column among the ruins of Trajan's Forum.

The Column of Marcus Aurelius

This ancient monument was built in 180 CE and modelled after the Column of Trajan.

column of marcus aurelius in piazza colonnaThe column of Marcus Aurelius makes for an impressive monument in Piazza Colonna.

It stands 113 feet / 34.5 meters tall and is carved with reliefs depicting scenes from Emperor Marcus Aurelius' military campaigns.

column of marcus aurelius closeupDetails of the story depicted on the column of Marcus Aurelius.

In the 16th century, Pope Sixtus V placed statues of Rome's patron saints Peter (Trajan's Column) and Paul (Marcus Aurelius' Column) on top of these columns, changing their history from pagan to Christian.

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The Aurelian Walls

aurelian walls from aboveThe Aurelian Walls as seen from the tower at the Museo delle Mura (free museum of the walls.)

Many people do not realize that the Aurelian Walls are actually the largest Ancient Roman monument in Rome.

Constructed between 271 and 275 CE under Roman Emperor Aurelian (not Marcus Aurelius), these walls helped defend the ancient city center against attack.

They originally ran 19km (12 miles) all around the original seven hills of Rome.

aurelian wallsThe Aurelian Walls can be found in many neighborhoods around Rome.

Some parts of the walls are missing but they are fairly intact even today, and you can even visit them for free.

Theater of Marcellus

People often mistake this building for the Colosseum, but it was actually an open-air theater for watching plays and musical productions.

The theater could accommodate up to 20,000 spectators.

theater of marcellusThe theater of Marcellus closely resembles the Colosseum but was built around 100 years earlier than that more famous amphitheater.

Constructed around 100 years prior to the Colosseum under Emperor Augustus, the Teatro di Marcello was named for Augustus' nephew, Marcellus, his sister Octavia's son who died prematurely of fever at the age of 19 or 20.

theater of marcellusThe theater of Marcellus sits on the edge of the Jewish Ghetto.

Today it sits on the edge of the Jewish Ghetto.

While the structure has been a private condominium for the past few centuries, you can walk past the outside.

Temple of Hercules Victor

foro boario - temple of hercules victorI think the temple to Hercules Victor is one of the most beautiful monuments from Ancient Rome in Rome.

This ancient pagan temple was built near the Tiber river on the Foro Boario, an old cattle market, in the 2nd century BCE.

It's the oldest surviving marble building from antiquity in the city.

foro boario and temple of portunusTwo of Rome's most ancient monuments sit right near each other and are also just a few meters away from another ancient monument, the temple of Janus.

This Rome monument is an interesting example of how the Romans often incorporated elements from conquered cultures - this one includes Greek details.

Like the Pantheon, this temple was converted to a Christian church which helped preserve it.

Despite its name, to this day we do not know to whom the temple was really dedicated, or what it was used for.

The perfect 3-day itinerary in Rome

Trying to figure out how to organize your visit to Rome? I've got the perfect 3-day itinerary for first-time visitors (or those who have not been here in a while.) It works for a 2.5 day visit as well.

In my 3-day itinerary, you'll see all the major must-see Rome attractions like the Vatican, Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, Piazza Navona, Spanish Steps, Castel Sant'Angelo, and much more.

And if you have more time, or want suggestions for extra/other things to do, you'll find that there too.

Visit my page with the best 3-day itinerary in Rome for first-timers.

Temple of Portunus

Just next to the temple of Hercules Victor sits the temple of Portunus.

This 1st-century BCE temple is composed of a mixture of architectural styles that include Etruscan, Greek and Roman.

temple of portunusThe temple of Portunus is an excellent example of early Roman architecture. It's also reminiscent of many modern bank and government buildings that were inspired by this architecture.

You might notice that many modern small stand-alone banks use this form today.

As with the two other structures nearby, we don't know the exact purpose of this building.

In 872 it was converted to a church, which helped preserve it.

temple of portunus from the backWhen you look at the Temple of Portunus from the back, you can really see the mix of architectural styles.

Arch of Janus

This 4th-century CE arch is the only four-sided arch in Rome.

arch of janusThe Arch of Janus, also called the "Velabro" got new lighting in recent years and it's stunning at night!

This quadrifrons triumphal arch was constructed from spolia (scraps and shards) in the 4th century BCE.

Its exact use in antiquity is unknown.

You can easily see it near the above two structures. On weekends, you can walk around it up close for free.

Arch of Constantine

It's pretty hard to miss this historic monument that sits between the Colosseum and the Roman Forum.

Constructed in 315 CE, this arch is dedicated to Constantine and celebrated his victory over Maxentius.

It's mostly made up of spolia (scraps) from other ancient ruins and monuments.

view of the arch of constantine at duskThe Arch of Constantine is often overlooked when people are rushing to get inside the Colosseum

While Rome was once full of these triumphal arches, today we only have three left - the Arch of Constantine, and two inside the Roman Forum, the Arch of Titus and the Arch of Septimius Severus.

The latter two arches are visible from the outside of the Forum so you can see them even if you don't plan to visit the Roman Forum itself.

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The Obelisk in Piazza del Popolo

One of 8 obelisks literally hauled to Rome from Ancient Egypt, this one, also known as the Flaminio obelisk due to its current location, was brought to the city in 10 BCE by Emperor Augustus.

Along with another ancient Egyptian obelisk that today stands in Montecitorio in front of Italy's Parliament, this obelisk was a "spoil of war" and marked Augustus' victory over Anthony and Cleopatra.

Obelisk in center of Piazza PopoloThe huge obelisk in the center of Piazza del Popolo is an excellent example of how the Romans collected items from around their empire

It once stood in the spine of the Circus Maximus, next to the even larger Lateran obelisk (which was itself brought to Rome by Emperor Constantine's son, Constantius II, in 357.)

While there are 8 obelisks in Rome from Ancient Egypt, there are another 5 obelisks in Rome that date to the Roman Empire and were constructed here.

Rome also has several more "modern" obelisks, such as the one in the gardens of the Villa Medici near the top of the Spanish Steps and Piazza Trinità dei Monti, and the fascist-era obelisk in the Rome EUR district.

The Pyramid of Cestius

Another Egyptian-inspired monument, this pyramid was built in 12 BCE as the tomb of Gaius Cestius.

Pyramid of Cestius view from non Catholic cemeteryYes that is an Egyptian pyramid in the heart of Rome!

Unfortunately, it's not easy to visit the inside, but you can easily see it from the outside, especially if you head to Rome's iconic Non-Catholic Cemetery (complete with cat sanctuary!)

Largo di Torre Argentina

Right in the center of the city, close to lots of historic locations as well as being a hub for busestrams and taxis, Largo Argentina is more important than it looks.

Largo ArgentinaThis site in the center of Rome marks the spot where Julius Caesar was assassinated on the Ides of March in 44 BCE.

The ruins on show are below the current street level so you can walk around the perimeter and look down on the ancient buildings.

Pompey's theater, next to the temples, is the location widely accepted to be where Julius Caesar was assassinated, so this is a place where history was truly made.

Plus, there is a cat sanctuary in the complex!

Believe it or not, the above list is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Ancient Roman ruins in Rome!

There are dozens of lesser-known ancient structures, obelisks, columns, towers, and more.

But this should give you a pretty good, if ambitious, list of ancient Roman monuments to see when you visit Rome.

More "modern" monuments in Rome

Some of the most important monuments from the Renaissance and later periods include:

The Trevi Fountain

The Trevi Fountain is Rome's most famous fountain and without a doubt one of the most popular and famous monuments in the Eternal City.

Based on a water source that dates back to ancient times, the current Trevi fountain was completed in the 18th century and is considered "Roccoco" style.

Trevi Fountain at nightThe Trevi Fountain never has any shortage of visitors due to its amazingly detailed sculptures

This is another of the most famous landmarks in Rome that are hard to miss as the Trevi Fountain is right in the historic center and close to many other must-see sites like the Pantheon, the Spanish Steps, and Piazza Barberini.

The Spanish Steps

Built in 1725 and named after the nearby Spanish embassy, this sweeping staircase going up from Piazza di Spagna has been an iconic part of the city of Rome for centuries.

Spanish Steps empty with AzaleasThe Spanish Steps are much nicer now that they're not filled with people having their lunch

Although it's no longer possible to sit on the steps, or to eat or drink on them, it's still a great spot to soak up the atmosphere, and the Rome views from the top are worth the climb.

One of the things that changed after Covid lockdowns was that many restaurants and cafés could have tables outside.

Two such cafés now have tables right on the square at the ground level of the Spanish Steps (known as Piazza di Spagna), so it is in fact possible to sit and enjoy the panorama while you enjoy a drink or a snack.

Don't miss the Barcaccia fountain in Piazza di Spagna as well!

Altare della Patria - The monument to Victor Emmanuel II

Built in 1911, this monument is dedicated to the first king of a united Italy (who is buried in the Pantheon).

The Altare della Patria is a massive structure and an important symbol of Italian nationalism, found in the center of the city.

Home to the eternal flame guarded by soldiers and overlooking Piazza Venezia, the history on display is significant.

You can easily visit many parts of it for free.

View of the Vittoriano monumentThe views from the top of the Altara della Patria are possibly the best in Rome!

You can also pay a small fee to take the elevator to the top for arguably the best view in Rome.

And as a bonus, your ticket includes entry to a couple more museums.

Visit my dedicated page here for more details.

Saint Peter's Basilica

The 16th-century church of St Peter's Basilica is arguably one of the most iconic monuments in Rome, even though, technically, it's not in Rome!

st peter's basilica at the vaticanSaint Peter's Basilica in Vatican City is one of the most iconic monuments in all of Italy.

Vatican City is its own country, filled with history and lots more to see beyond the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel.

st peter's basilica central navePhotos simply do not do St Peter's Basilica justice, it is an incredible place to experience

St Peter's Basilica is a stunning example of Renaissance architecture and home to some of Christianity's most important relics.

For many people, St Peter's Basilica (along with Saint Peter's Square and the nearby Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel) are must-sees on any visit to Rome.

The Four Rivers Fountain in Piazza Navona

Constructed in the 17th century and designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, this fountain is a masterpiece of Baroque architecture.

four rivers fountain close upThe gleaming Four Rivers fountain in Piazza Navona is hard to beat!

You'll likely see it as you walk around Rome, as no visit to Rome is complete without a visit (or several!) to Piazza Navona.

For more about this piazza and the fountain, visit my page here.

Frankly, the list of Renaissance and Baroque-era fountains and churches in the Eternal City could go on and on, but these are just some of the most important "must-see" monuments in Rome.

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